The rate of construction fatalities has soared by 34 percent in California, with Latino workers especially hard hit.
California is generally considered one of the safest places to work in the country, with the occupational fatality rate in the state being much lower than the national rate. However, for many workers in California workplace safety is getting worse, not better. According to EHS Today, the fatality rate for construction workers in the state soared by 34 percent in 2015, helping drive up California’s overall workplace fatality rate. Furthermore, the recently released figures likely underreport the true scope of workplace injuries and accidents both here and across the country.
California fatality rate is up
In 2014, the fatality rate for workers in California’s construction industry was 4.5 deaths out of every 100,000 workers. In 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, that rate spiked an alarming 34 percent to 6.8 per 100,000 workers, the highest rate since 2005. That helped drive up California’s overall occupational fatality rate to 2.2 per 100,000 from 2.0 the year before. Only agricultural deaths, which more than doubled from 8.2 to 17.1, saw a more dramatic increase than construction fatalities.
Granted, as 89.3 KPCC reports, California’s overall occupational fatality rate is still the fifth lowest in the country. However, recent increases in fatalities highlight how problems with workplace safety still exist in the state, especially in certain sectors. One major problem is a lack of workplace inspectors. The AFL-CIO estimates that it would take California’s 216 workplace inspectors 181 years to inspect every workplace in the state just once.
Latino and immigrant safety
One area where California lags far behind is protecting the safety of Latino and immigrant workers. The number of Latino workers killed on the job in California in 2015 was 178, up significantly from the 130 who were killed the year before. Nationwide, Latino worker deaths increased from 804 to 903, meaning that the increase in Latino worker deaths in California far outpaces the national average. Those increases are likely due to Latino workers being more likely to be in hazardous jobs, including in construction.
It is also important to point out that these figures don’t show how many workers are killed by occupational diseases. The AFL-CIO estimates the death toll from occupational diseases is between 50,000 and 60,000 each year, which is 20 times higher than the number of people killed in workplace accidents. Additionally, non-fatal injuries tend to get underreported, with an estimated two-thirds of all workplace injuries never getting recorded.
Anybody who has been injured on the job in the construction industry should get in touch with an attorney who can help them pursue whatever compensation they may be entitled to. An attorney can help injured workers file a workers’ compensation claim and also help them pursue additional damages if the accident was caused by another party’s negligence.